U.S. Scene This Week: NRC comes to Fitchburg Longsjo

The New England classic NRC race has a new stage order that is sure to shake up the GC.

2009 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Andrea Dvorak
2009 Wachusett stage winner Andrea Dvorak is back again.

The midseason break is on for many of the U.S.-based professionals. Riders like Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) and Alison Powers (Vera Bradley Foundation) are taking a respite from domestic racing, which began in earnest back in March with the San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classic.

That said, the latest stop on the National Racing Calendar, the 51st edition of the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, starts Friday in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. One of the oldest races in the states, the Longsjo is a four-stage race that boasts a long history of young riders showing up in a big way.

Fitchburg Longsjo Classic – Fitchburg, Massachusetts

July 2-5

One year removed from its resurgent 50th anniversary, a new-look Longsjo takes its place amongst the NRC this weekend. The event, named after Art Longsjo, who competed in the 1956 winter and summer Olympics before dying later that year in a car accident, has stood as a memorial to the speed skater-turned-cyclist since 1960. The classic event is on the ropes with funding and volunteer issues in 2010 and executive director Ed Collier published a plea for help on the event Web site in June.

Though the race is in trouble, a solid men’s lineup will take the start with 2009 overall winner Zach Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies), NRC leader Luis Amaran (Jamis-Sutter Home) and Kirk Carlson (Garmin-Transitions) among those expected on Friday afternoon.

Floyd Landis also is on the start list, listed as unattached, although some sources familiar with the situation say he is not expected to appear.

The women’s field, on the other hand, is diminished this year by the presence of the national championships less than a week ago in Bend, Oregon. While NRC leader Powers won’t be in Fitchburg, previous stage winner Andrea Dvorak and her Colavita-Baci teammates will be, along with Vera Bradley’s national crit runner-up Erica Allar.

2009 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, men's podium
2009 Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, men's podium: (l-r): Zirbel (3rd), Bell (1st), Dionne (2nd).

New for 2010, the four-day race opens Friday with the Fitchburg Stage College Circuit Race. The 3.1-mile, rolling course supplants the opening time trial, which has been moved to Sunday. The schedule change should reshape the race, which Powers and Tom Zirbel characteristically led after the TT in 2009. The uphill finish on Friday suits Alejandro Borrajo (Jamis-Sutter Home) and David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) — Borrajo in a bunch sprint and Veilleux from a breakaway — and the GC afterward should be tightly packed.

Saturday’s Wachusett Mountain Road Race should widen those GC gaps. The challenging circuit climbs more than 800 vertical feet per lap. Charles Dionne (Fly V Australia) is back in 2010 after winning the Wachusett stage a year ago. While Zirbel limited his losses on this stage a year ago, the likely tight GC after stage 1 could be rocked on the mountain roads around Princeton. Dvorak won at Wachusett in 2009 and odds are she’ll be in the mix again this weekend.

The course profile for the South St. TT looks like a cardiogram and may very well provide the final changes atop the GC. In the men’s race, the 14.3km out-and-back suits Bell and his KBS teammate Scott Zwizanski, Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell). In the women’s contest, Dvorak has to be the early favorite, but with strong TT riders like Amber Neben, Alison Starnes and Mara Abbott riding the Giro Donne, stage 3 is wide open.

The final day in Fitchburg brings the downtown criterium, where Bell stole the overall from Zirbel in a late-day move last year. Last year’s overall winner Kyle Wamsley (Bissell) is nearly two months removed from a broken collarbone at Joe Martin and has to be hungry. Teammate Daniel Holloway and he will likely square up against Borrajo and Ivan Dominguez (Jamis) in the instance that a bunch sprint decides the stage. Allar should look to hop on board the Colavita train that will likely work for Kelly Benjamin on Sunday.

Stage 1: Friday July 2 2:00 p.m. (women) / 3:30 p.m. (men)

Fitchburg Stage College Circuit Race – 34 miles (women) / 74 miles (men)

Stage 2: Saturday July 3 12:30 p.m. (men) / 12:45 p.m. (women)

Wachusett Mountain Road Race – 98 miles (men) / 64 miles (women)

Stage 3: Sunday July 4 12:45 p.m. (men) / 2:00 p.m. (women)

Courtyard by Marriot Fitchburg/South St. Time Trial – 14.3 km

Stage 4: Monday July 5 2:30 p.m. (women) / 3:50 p.m. (men)

Workers’ Credit Union Downtown Criterium – 25 miles (women) / 50 miles (men)